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September 12, 2012

Get The Why's and The Traditions of The Jewish New Year

By: Leah Lang and Edited by Sharon Rosenthal
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Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, is Monday and Tuesday (beginning on the evening of Sunday,September 16th). It is steeped in Jewish rituals and traditions, family time and Jewish memories. 

Wondering what it is all about? Traditionally, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated with prayer, blowing of the Shofar (a Ram's Horn), holiday meals with some special foods and a Tashlich or Casting Off of Sins Cermony.

On Rosh Hashanah, and the days before and after, jews wish each other to have a sweet new year - 
"L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu" may you be written in for a good year. They send cards or call each other (some people email, Facebook, tweet, etc.). A fun project to do with the kids is to create a few New Year cards for some lonely people in your community. Explain to your child that you want to bring happiness and good year wishes to those who don’t have family to wish them (homeless shelter, senior centers, shut-ins, etc.)

One of the key traditions of this holiday is to hear a Shofar blown. The loud noise can be scary for some, and other kids love it. The idea behind the Shofar being blown is that it is a wakeup call to start atoning for the sins/mistakes of the previous year because the day of atonement is close. It is important to keep your child quiet when they blow the Shofar – from the first blessing until after the Shofar is blown, so everyone can hear it. Kids can make their own Shofar HERE.

The meals provide a wonderful opportunity for family to get together, enjoy each other’s presence and reflect about the past year and be optimistic for the upcoming year. Some fun foods to enjoy while celebrating this holiday are apples dipped in honey, pomegranates, sweet carrot tsimmes, the round challah or egg bread with raisins and honey cakes

The Round Challah is used instead of the usual braided challah/egg bread. The special round challah reminds us of the roundness of the year and tells us that the coming year will be full and fruitful. (Some people also add sweet raisins to the Challah).

We take an apple which is sweet (not a green, tart apple) and dip it into sweet honey, trusting and praying that G-d will grant us a sweet new year). There is special blessing and prayer said when eating the Apple and Honey. A fun game to play with younger kids is,  “Let’s dip 1-2-3. Let’s dip again 1-2-3.”  The purpose behind the dipping is to talk about the sweetness of the apple and of the honey, and the sweetness that we hope for the new year.

Pomegranates  are symbolic of ‘plenty’. There are plenty of seeds in a pomegranate. Jews ask G-d for plenty of health and happiness for the new year. If you open a Pomengranite you will see tons of seeds. Jews want to have many happiness and good things in their lives—just like there are so many seeds in this fruit. Ask your child for specific good things he wants for the upcoming year. Be careful though, pomegranates can stain!

Carrots in the Yiddish language, are called ‘merren’. This word also means ‘more’ in Yiddish. We want more of all the good things in life: More happiness, more health, and more success.  Many people prepare the carrots in a sweet honey sauce (called tsimmes). 

On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah (this year September 17, 2012), jews walk to a river or a place of water. It is best if there are fish in the water. At the river, we say a special prayer which reminds us about doing better in the next year. (The translation of Tashlich means ‘throw’. We symbolically shake out our pockets, as if we are emptying them of crumbs and throwing them to the fish. This reminds us to think about starting off the year without mistakes – to begin the year with a clean slate.)Just as water washes away the dirt, jews want to remind ourselves to wash away our mistakes.  Water symbolizes purifying; Jews want to be purified from our past mistakes.

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